Saturday, October 27, 2007


Will climate change increase population pressure on Hawaii?

by Larry Geller

From Brad Blog, on the drought and the California fires:

"It's like Armageddon," Jill Michaels said, after watching her home burn to the ground in the Harris fire. In the early hours of the worst fire in California history, the Michaels family received no evacuation warning and found exit routes blocked, forcing them to turn back to their home in Potrero. Now, the Michaels are among half a million evacuees who have fled four raging wildfires, the worst fire disaster in California history. Worse even than the 2003 Cedar fire, which until now held that shameful record.

San Diego County now has more refugees than New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. While reported loss of life thus far remains low, hundreds of thousands of acres have been scorched and countless people will soon return home--only to find themselves homeless.

At some point, people will notice that the forests are not burning in Hawaii. They'll pack up and relocate here, possibly in large numbers once the word gets out that it's still nice to live here even as California burns and struggles to find new sources of water.

Global warming is about climate change. At some point, with bugs eating the trees and the trees burning and disappearing, California won’t have to worry about “drought” any longer. They’ll have “desert.” People don’t talk about drought in the Sahara because the climate is perpetual drought. For much of the country, it looks like that’s where we’re headed.

Hawaii may escape this desertification. We know what to expect in terms of a rise in sea level, but not much has appeared in comparison on how Hawaii will be affected in terms of climate, fresh water, and so forth. 

Hawaii is a nationwide leader in addressing climate change.  The Global Warming Solutions Act establishes a state policy to lower Hawaii's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. At the same time, we lag badly at present in our use of alternative forms of energy. We also watch the  rain cascade off the rooftops in Manoa while residents pay the high cost of flushing their toilets and doing laundry with drinking water.

Are we planning for the effects of climate change? The governor convenes disaster preparedness meetings in secret, so we don’t know what they are talking about. Is it limited to Red Cross shelters for those unforeseen but sudden emergencies, or are they also planning for chronic emergencies? Global warming will become a chronic emergency.

At some point, with some other governor, we’ll probably have to convene meetings about what we should do to face the coming crises. One change to watch for is a rapid population increase as other parts of the country become less habitable.

Will we start thinking of how to restrict in-migration and overdevelopment of housing tracts, how to accelerate the use of alternative forms of energy, how to increase planting of crops likely to survive climate change, and how to make use of rainfall to flush our toilets? How will we provide for the energy, resource and housing demands of a rapidly growing population?

Although it benefits all of us to start talking and doing something early, one thing this state has shown little aptitude for is planning.

Whether or not we plan, chances are, ready or not, the people will come.


What I noticed here in Kona is that as long as we didn't have the super stores (Walmart, Kmart, Costco, Home Depot, Lowes,etc) continent dwellers weren't all that eager to move here. Now with the super centers here, any catostrophic event on the continent is surely going to cause them to "jump ship" and move to Hawaii. Not so bad if they leave their car oriented, "me me me" values back on the continent.

Re Brad Blog:You've got some parts right but others....... There have been far too many fires on Maui too. Most of Pali burned a year ago Sept., the Kula forest burned last winter for a week, there have been at least six fires on the Lahaina side very close to homes, and now there have been fires set in the North Kona area. And every day I watch giant towers of cane smoke rise into the atmosphere and they don't always blow away.

Maui is not be a leader in addressing climate change no matter what the state spins. Cane burning alone will probably negate any advantage we get from our wind mills. Importing palm oil from South East Asia to process in a plant on Maui ( Blue Earth) to generate power is shortsighted and it just replaces one form of imported oil for another. The cost of cooking oil for that part of the world is doubling already. Producing alternative fuels from any food stuff is turning into an ecological nightmare not to mention the concurrent rise in food prices and the shortage of food in poorer countries.

Your right about the state and lack of planning. Heco is stuck in the 80's, not embracing new energy forms dragging their feet, skeptical about wind, solar and anything that doesn't burn. The folks here are fed up will development. Infrastructure is crumbling, reefs are dying and Lingle thinks more tourism is the answer. The ferry is the tipping point for all the above. Keep watching though, so we can all learn.

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